Don’t Wait, It’s Apopka Debate!

The Speech and Debate team is a club with a rich history here at Apopka High. Participants focus on public speaking and argumentation, refining their skills for tournaments that they attend every 1-2 weeks at various schools. They compete in 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or even in “chambers” of 16+ depending on which debate event they do. Competitors in speech compete individually, with some having to memorize long speeches for their event, and others having to speak extemporaneously, with very limited time to prepare. For this article, The Blue and White was able to speak to the Apopka Speech and Debate Team sponsor, Mrs. Brown, Team Captain Samuel Nuebel, and Debater Jezabel Colon. Hear what they have to say and learn more about our Speech and Debate team below!

The Apopka Debate team at the NCDC Tournament
Mrs. Cathy Brown Pictured with the trophy for Most Inspiring Coach

On November 13th, the debate team traveled to the Caribe Royal Hotel for the annual National Civics and Debate Championship. The Darter Debate team came back successful, with Saaya Lijo finishing top 25 (out of over 300) in Congress and Impromptu Speaking, Samuel Nuebel finishing 22nd in extemporaneous debate, Joselyn Diaz winning the Freedom Cup, and Mrs. Brown winning the “Most Inspiring Coach” award. Mrs. Brown was elated, saying, “Winning the Most Inspiring Coach award was the most meaningful award I have received in my teaching career! What meant the most is that the students nominated me with several personal letters.”

Members of the Debate Team who competed in the 12/3/2022 tournament.

As future tournaments go, there are many. Captain Samuel Nuebel explained that “the weekend before winter break ends we have me and two others competing at ‘Sunvite’, a large National Circuit tournament in South FL, there will be the option to compete at several other online national circuit tournaments (including Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania tournaments), and qualifiers for both the state tournament and the NSDA National Championship tournament. If everything ends up right, we hope to compete at the Harvard Invitational in Boston, which we have done several times pre-covid. We also plan to compete at NSDA nationals in Arizona this summer because although qualifiers have not happened yet, we consistently get people who qualify.”

Debate members compete in a variety of different events, each requiring a unique set of skills and experience. When asked what she competes in and why, Freshman Jezabel Colon said, “I’ve competed in Impromptu Speaking, Extemporaneous Debate, and World Schools. But my favorite is Extemporaneous because it’s fun, the style of debate and I really like the 1v1 arguing.” Samuel competes in different events than Jezabel, saying, “I currently compete in Lincoln Douglas debate, but I am switching into student congress. A reason why I enjoy it is that it is a 1v1 event, so although you can prep research with teammates, winning rounds is solely up to you. I am moving into Congressional debate because I find the event enjoyable, and Apopka has a legacy of high-caliber competitors in this event.”

Samuel stressed the benefits of speech and debate, saying that “…debate has genuinely made me more intelligent, not only through the knowledge I have obtained but also through allowing me to learn more efficiently. Other activities probably could provide similar benefits, however, debate is unique in one key way, because of how it allows you to improve your ability to articulate yourself. The ability to share your knowledge, especially in a convincing manner is arguably just as important as possessing that knowledge in the first place.” Mrs. Brown had similar thoughts, saying “I have seen so much success with our competitors! They find their voice, and they develop the ability to share their views in a clear and convincing way. They become disciplined in research and learn to see other perspectives.” Debating teaches students many important skills useful for school and life in general.

Members had great things to say for those interested in joining. Samuel said that “my message to all those considering joining it is to try it before you count it out. Debate can serve many interests, and you are able to make the experience centered around those. Some are into it for the awards. Some enjoy arguing. Some want to become more confident and get rid of their fear of public speaking.” Jezabel also had high praise for the team, saying, “that debate is more than a team, it becomes your people, and it becomes a community. Because you’re gonna meet people from different schools who you’ll only talk to when you see them at a debate and it’s really fun too.”

You can find more information and ask questions about the debate team through their Instagram, @apopkadebate.